Jusuf Nurkic

Blazers Rumors: Dame, Stotts, Nurkic, Powell, Jones

In the wake of Thursday’s loss to Denver, which eliminated the Trail Blazers from the postseason, Portland players appeared to sense that major changes could be coming this offseason, writes Jason Quick of The Athletic. Star point guard Damian Lillard suggested that the team would have to go “back to the drawing board” following its first-round exit.

“We didn’t win a championship, so obviously where we are now isn’t good enough,” Lillard said, noting that the Blazers couldn’t beat a Nuggets team that was missing starters Jamal Murray and Will Barton. “I don’t know what a shakeup looks like, or what changes will be made or could be made, but obviously as it is wasn’t good enough.”

As Quick writes, the future of head coach Terry Stotts will be one of the first issues the organization has to address. Stotts has one more guaranteed year on his contract, with a team option for 2022/23. However, multiple reports have indicated that Stotts is on the hot seat, and Portland’s showing in the playoffs likely didn’t help his cause.

According to Quick, the Blazers will go through exit interviews with players on Friday before making a call on Stotts, and may wait until next week to make their final decision. For his part, the Blazers’ head coach, who has led the team to eight straight playoff appearances, sounded prepared for any outcome.

“My job security? I’m under contract … I’m sure just like at the end of every year, we are all evaluated,” Stotts said. “The players, coaches, management, we are all evaluated. We will see what happens. At the end of the season, when you lose, everyone is evaluated. When we lost to New Orleans (in 2018), got swept by New Orleans, we were all evaluated. So we will see what happens.”

Here’s more on the Blazers:

  • While he has long been committed to Portland, Lillard figures to draw plenty of leaguewide interest from teams curious to see if he’s becoming any more open to a change of scenery, Marc Berman of The New York Post writes. So far, there’s no indication that Lillard’s commitment to the franchise is wavering.
  • Jusuf Nurkic didn’t sound certain about his future in Portland after Thursday’s loss. The veteran center’s $12MM salary for 2021/22 is only partially guaranteed for $4MM, but a source tells Quick the Blazers plan to guarantee the remainder. Still, Nurkic said he would’ve liked to play a bigger role, and was cryptic when asked if he wanted to return. “In the right situation, yes,” Nurkic replied, per ESPN’s Royce Young. Asked what the right situation was, Nurkic said, “We’ll see. I don’t know yet. Because this is not it.”
  • The Blazers face a tricky decision on Norman Powell, who could command up to $20MM per year in free agency, Quick writes for The Athletic. Portland has interest in re-signing Powell, but it may not be practical to invest heavily in another guard if Lillard and CJ McCollum are still on the roster, since the star duo will earn $70MM+ in 2021/22 (and even more than that in future seasons).
  • Powell’s future and that of Derrick Jones will likely be tied – at least in part – to whether or not Stotts returns, since his usage of both players was questionable, Quick says. Jones may not be able to match his $9.7MM player option salary on the open market, but it’s unlikely that he’d want to return to play for a coach that didn’t seem to value him, Quick observes.

Northwest Notes: Conley, Gobert, Malone, Trail Blazers

Mike Conley turned in a vintage performance Saturday night in his first road playoff game at Memphis, writes Nick Friedell of ESPN. The veteran point guard made it a memorable homecoming with 27 points, eight assists and six rebounds as the Jazz pulled out a Game 3 victory.

Conley spent 12 years with the Grizzlies and was a fan favorite before being traded to Utah in 2019. This first-round series has him battling with second-year guard Ja Morant, who has become the new face of the franchise.

“It’s amazing to be playing against a guy like Ja, first off,” Conley said. “Just seeing a guy that’s so talented, he’s a young superstar in the league, wearing the jersey that I’m so used to wearing. Getting the cheers from the crowd that I’m so used to hearing. It’s surreal. It’s like full circle. You never thought that it would be this way. I never did, at least. It’s like sometimes you live long enough to become the villain, and I’ve become that for the Memphis Grizzlies now.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Rudy Gobert was thinking of Mark Eaton after Saturday’s win, according to Sarah Todd of The Deseret News. Eaton, a former Jazz center and shot-blocking specialist, died Friday at age 64. “I know that if he was here I would have got a text after the game saying, ‘Way to protect the paint, big guy,’” Gobert said.
  • Nuggets coach Michael Malone called out his team — and especially his starters — after a lopsided loss to Portland in Saturday’s Game 4, writes Royce Young of ESPN. With a chance to go up 3-1 in the series, Denver came out flat and never seriously challenged the Trail Blazers. The Nuggets’ starting unit was outscored 49-26 when it was on the floor and shot 30% from the field while Portland was making 65% of its shots. “Our starters were awful,” Malone said. “I thought we had some guys that were tentative, that looked a little scared, who played soft … we’re going to have to be a lot better going home.” He later added, “I can’t believe we’re actually talking about playing hard in a playoff game. That should be a given.”
  • With the Trail Blazers’ season hanging in the balance, Jusuf Nurkic and Norman Powell both came into Saturday’s game with something to prove, according to Jason Quick of The Athletic. Nurkic was upset over disparaging comments about his defense, while Powell wanted to show he could be the difference maker Portland expected when it acquired him at the trade deadline.

Trail Blazers Notes: McCollum, Stotts, Lillard, Nurkic

Trail Blazers players won’t be thinking about saving coach Terry Stotts‘ job when they open their playoff series with the Nuggets tonight, CJ McCollum tells Jason Quick of The Athletic. Stotts is rumored to be among a handful of coaches who are in jeopardy if they suffer an early exit in the postseason. He has one year left on his current contract with a salary of more than $6MM.

McCollum made it clear that the players support Stotts, but there are other motivating factors.

“You have no control over those things,” he said. “I like Terry. Terry has been great for me, my career, my development, he’s given me a chance. I will forever be grateful for everything he has done for me. But your job as a player is to play. And his job as a coach is to coach. Like, you can’t worry about what could happen. That’s every year. Every year, I could be traded. Every year, a coach could lose his job. There is enough pressure to perform on its own.

“…  I don’t need any extra motivation to help Terry keep his job. I’m gonna go hoop and do what I do no matter what. And I think that’s Terry’s mentality. If something happens, Terry is OK. He’s gonna be all right, and he’s probably going to get another head coaching job.”

There’s more Trail Blazers news to pass along:

  • Damian Lillard discusses how the COVID-19 pandemic affected him and players in general in an in-depth interview with Sam Amick of The Athletic. He also addresses a recent column by Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports calling for Portland to add more top-level talent during Lillard’s prime years. “People love to hear, ‘Oh, this guy might want out of here or out of there.’ I’ve constantly mentioned what my commitment to Portland is,” Lillard said. “I don’t think I need to keep going in on that. But over the course of a season, everybody gets frustrated, you know? And I’m not a person who fakes it for nobody. Not the media. Not my teammates. Not the fans. Not for nobody.”
  • The 2017 trade that sent Jusuf Nurkic from Denver to Portland helped the Nuggets and Blazers both improve, writes Kyle Fredrickson of The Denver Post. Portland needed an upgrade at center, and Nurkic had just lost his starting job to Nikola Jokic.
  • Zach Collins is the only player listed on the Trail Blazers’ injury report as the playoffs begin. Collins hasn’t played all season after undergoing surgery to fix a stress fracture in his ankle, but a recent story by Quick said the big man hasn’t given up hope of returning if Portland makes a long playoff run.

Jusuf Nurkic Ready To Return On Friday

The Trail Blazers made a splash on Thursday by agreeing to acquire Norman Powell from the Raptors. They’ll also add another key piece in-house, as center Jusuf Nurkic is ready to return from a lengthy absence. The big man tweets he’ll be in the lineup against the Magic on Friday.

Nurkic underwent surgery on January 19 to repair a fracture in his right wrist. He suffered his latest major injury against the Pacers while attempting to block a shot. He was cleared to play this week.

The 6’11” Nurkic missed nearly the entire 2019/20 season due to a major leg injury suffered late in the previous season. He’s averaging 9.8 PPG, 7.7 RPG, and 2.8 APG in 12 games (23.3 MPG) this season. He enjoyed a career year, averaged 15.6 PPG, 10.4 RPG and 3.2 APG, in 2018/19 before fracturing his left leg.

Nurkic has a partially guaranteed base salary of $12MM next season. He’s guaranteed $4MM and the Trail Blazers will have to decide whether to give him a full guarantee this summer.

Enes Kanter, who is averaging 12.1 PPG and 11.6 RPG, will return to a second-unit role with Nurkic back in action.

Northwest Notes: Jazz, Blazers, Nurkic, Wolves

The Jazz still have an open spot on their 15-man roster and they’re likely to fill it sooner or later, writes Tony Jones of The Athletic. That could happen by Thursday’s deadline, but if Utah doesn’t add a player in a deadline deal, the team figures to scour the buyout market after March 25.

As for what type of player the Jazz may be targeting, league sources tell Jones that the club is in the market for a perimeter defender who could perhaps play 10-15 minutes against top perimeter scorers. Ideally, that player would also be able to knock down three-pointers, but there won’t be many solid three-and-D wings available for cheap on the trade market or in free agency.

The Jazz won’t be upset if they don’t find that player by Thursday, according to Jones, who says the club is happy with its current rotation and team chemistry.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • The Trail Blazers became the latest team to have many of their players receive the coronavirus vaccine. The team announced today in a press release that 13 players received their first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, having received access to an excess supply from the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde.
  • Although Jusuf Nurkic remains sidelined for the Trail Blazers, the wrist he underwent surgery on in January has been cleared, according to Jason Quick of The Athletic, who notes (via Twitter) that Nurkic’s return is now being delayed by a right calf strain.
  • The Timberwolves will welcome fans back to the Target Center beginning on April 5 vs. Sacramento, the team announced in a press release. The club didn’t clarify exactly what the limited capacity will be in its arena for the rest of the season.

Haynes’ Latest: Davis, Nurkic, Thompson, Raptors, McGee

The Lakers announced on Friday that Anthony Davis would miss at least the next two weeks as he continues to recover from his right calf strain and tendinosis. However, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, Davis is unlikely to return immediately after the end of that two-week timeline.

Sources tell Haynes that the Lakers’ star forward/center is expected to be out for the next three weeks, and potentially longer than that. Even if Los Angeles slips a little more in the standings without Davis in its lineup, the team wants to be cautious in its handling of one of its two superstars, Haynes writes.

Including the game in which Davis went down, the Lakers have lost seven of their last 11, but they’re still comfortably holding a playoff spot in the West — they’re the No. 3 seed, at 25-13.

Here’s more from Haynes:

  • Injured Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic (wrist) plans on making his return in about two weeks, sources tell Yahoo Sports. CJ McCollum (foot) said over the weekend that he’s aiming to return this week, so Portland could get two key starters back in its lineup before the end of the month.
  • According to Haynes, Celtics center Tristan Thompson is a candidate to be moved prior to next Thursday’s trade deadline, with the Raptors among his possible landing spots. The Toronto native has long been linked to his hometown team, and while nothing has ever come of those rumors, a union would make more sense now that the Raptors are in the market for an upgrade at center.
  • Cavaliers center JaVale McGee – who has drawn interest from contenders, including the Nets – isn’t entertaining a buyout, so if he changes teams, it will be via trade, says Haynes. While Brooklyn may prefer his teammate Andre Drummond, McGee’s modest $4.2MM salary will make him easier to move in a deal.
  • We passed along a few more items from Haynes earlier today, including notes on DeMar DeRozan, John Wall, and Hassan Whiteside.

Blazers Rumors: Open Roster Spot, McCollum, Nurkic, More

The Trail Blazers have held their 15th roster spot open for the entire regular season so far, but hope to fill that spot in the coming weeks via the trade or buyout market, says Jason Quick of The Athletic. According to Quick, Portland will be looking to add a player who will “unquestionably be in the rotation for the remainder of the season.”

Quick cautions that the Blazers likely won’t make a major move like they did in 2017 when they acquired Jusuf Nurkic at the deadline — the goal will simply be to add a player who is more productive and/or reliable than back-of-the-rotation contributors such as Anfernee Simons, Nassir Little, and Rodney Hood.

A wing who can shoot would be an ideal addition, according to Quick, who notes that Bulls forward Otto Porter is a player that Blazers president Neil Olshey has liked for a long time. Porter would only be a realistic target if he’s bought out.

If Portland can’t find a wing who can shoot, the club may shift its focus to addressing the backup point guard spot, per Quick. Simons has been handling that role for much of the year and has shot the ball well, but his ball-handling has been a little shaky.

Here’s more on the Blazers:

  • The Blazers still haven’t set exact dates for their respective returns, but there’s a sense that CJ McCollum (foot) and Jusuf Nurkic (wrist) are days, not weeks, away from getting back on the court, according to Quick.
  • A source tells The Athletic that Portland isn’t considering signing big man DeMarcus Cousins, who reached the free agent market last month.
  • In addition to having an opening on their 15-man roster, the Blazers also have an open two-way contract slot. However, the club has no plans to fill that opening, since any two-way player would just be “a warm body” on the bench, says Quick.
  • The Blazers are about $1.8MM below the luxury tax line and are “adamant” about not crossing that threshold, which will be a factor in what trades they’re able to make and how much they’re willing to offer to players on the buyout market.

Northwest Notes: McDaniels, McCollum, Jokic, Nuggets

Rookie Timberwolves forward Jaden McDaniels, the No. 28 pick out of Washington in the 2020 draft, has emerged as a potential keeper for Minnesota, writes Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. Though his counting stats are currently modest, the 6’9″ McDaniels’ defensive upside and corner three-point shooting have earned him a spot on the Timberwolves depth chart. He is averaging 19.1 MPG across 30 contests.

“Just trying to help them out as many ways as I can, rebounding as hard as I can, playing defense, just I feel like that does help a lot,” McDaniels said of his first NBA season. “You can come in fresh and nobody knows who I am and they don’t know what I can do.”

There’s more out of the Northwest:

  • There have been some minor updates on the health status of key Trail Blazers starters CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic. Shooting guard McCollum continues to rehabilitate the left foot he broke in January, and has been cleared to participate in contact practices, according to Jason Quick of The Athletic (Twitter link). Center Nurkic, who underwent a right wrist surgery earlier this season, is gradually progressing in his on-court workouts, Quick noted in a separate tweet. Both players will be re-evaluated next week.
  • Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN assesses All-Star Nuggets center Nikola Jokic‘s atypical path to MVP candidacy. Youngmisuk tracks Jokic’s rise from overlooked No. 41 pick in the 2014 draft to one of the best-passing big men in the history of the NBA. Fellow MVP contender LeBron James recently praised the center’s court vision. “The guy has an unbelievable talent of seeing the floor and seeing plays happen before they happen,” James said.
  • In an extensive Nuggets mailbag, Mike Singer of the Denver Post examines a variety of trade options for Denver ahead of the March 25 deadline. The fits of Rockets vets Victor Oladipo and P.J. Tucker, plus Kings forward Nemanja Bjelica, are assessed.

Northwest Notes: McCollum, Nurkic, Diallo, Horford, Wolves

Both CJ McCollum (foot) and Jusuf Nurkic (wrist) are due to be reassessed on March 2, and the results of those evaluations will be crucial for a Trail Blazers team looking to make a second-half push, writes Jason Quick of The Athletic. The hope is that McCollum and Nurkic will be able to return shortly after the All-Star break to complement Damian Lillard, who says he thinks about his missing teammates constantly.

“Maybe y’all haven’t been doing that, but I do that all the time,” Lillard said. “I don’t think you have two players at the level those guys are and not go into a game thinking of them.

“… You always see moments where they can help the team and impact the game,” he continued. “It hasn’t been just the last two games (both losses). Even when we were winning, those weren’t running-away wins. Those were down-to-the-wire wins, so even in those games, it was like, man, it would have been good to have those guys out there.”

The Trail Blazers are also missing fourth-year big man Zach Collins, but there’s no indication that he’s close to a return after being ruled out indefinitely following December ankle surgery.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • The Thunder may be without wing Hamidou Diallo for the rest of the first half, according to Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman, who says Diallo has been ruled out for at least the next two games due to a right groin injury.
  • While he may prefer to be playing for a contender, big man Al Horford has embraced his role as a leader for the rebuilding Thunder since being acquired in an offseason trade, Mussatto writes in a separate story for The Oklahoman. “We have a great group of guys,” Horford said. “It’s something that has really impressed me since I’ve gotten here, just the willingness of our group to work, to focus, to try to be better. It makes it easier for me. It motivates me to be there for them and try to help them in any way that I can.”
  • Following the Timberwolves‘ swift hiring of Chris Finch as Ryan Saunders‘ full-time replacement, the National Basketball Coaches Association criticized the team for not conducting a “thorough and transparent search of candidates from a wide range of diverse backgrounds,” as Chris Hine of The Star Tribune outlines.

Jusuf Nurkic Undergoes Wrist Surgery

Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic underwent surgery on Tuesday to repair a fracture in his right wrist, according to a team press release.

Nurkic will wear a splint for four weeks and be re-evaluated in six weeks. The timeline offered by the team suggests that the snakebit Portland big man will not return until March at the earliest.

The procedure was performed by Dr. Steven Shin at the Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles.

Nurkic suffered his latest major injury during the fourth quarter of Thursday’s game against the Pacers while attempting to block a shot.

He missed nearly the entire 2019/20 season due to a major leg injury suffered late in the previous season. Nurkic is averaging 9.8 PPG, 7.7 RPG, and 2.8 APG in 12 games (23.3 MPG) this season. He enjoyed a career year, averaged 15.6 PPG, 10.4 RPG and 3.2 APG, in 2018/19 before fracturing his left leg.

Nurkic has a partially guaranteed base salary of $12MM next season. The Trail Blazers will have to decide whether to give him a full guarantee this summer.

Enes Kanter started in his place on Monday against San Antonio with Harry Giles backing him up. The Trail Blazers have a spot open on the 15-man roster as well as a two-way slot to add another big man if they wish. According to ESPN’s Bobby Marks, they are $1.87MM below the luxury tax line (Twitter link).